Light harvesting enhancement by slow photons in photonic crystal catalysts or dye-sensitized solar cells is a promising approach for increasing the efficiency of photoreactions. This structural effect is exploited in inverse opal TiO2 photocatalysts by tuning the red edge of the photonic band gap to the TiO2 electronic excitation band edge. In spite of many experimental demonstrations, the slow photon effect is not fully understood yet. In particular, observed enhancement by tuning the blue edge has remained unexplained. Based on rigorous couple wave analysis simulations, we quantify light harvesting enhancement in terms of absorption increase at a specific wavelength (monochromatic UV illumination) or photocurrent increase (solar light illumination), with respect to homogeneous flat slab of equivalent material thickness. We show that the commonly accepted explanation relying on light intensity confinement in high (low) dielectric constant regions at the red (blue) edge is challenged in the case of TiO2 inverse opals because of the sub-wavelength size of the material skeleton. The reason why slow photons at the blue edge are also able to enhance light harvesting is the loose confinement of the field, which leads to significant resonantly enhanced field intensity overlap with the skeleton in both red and blue edge tuning cases, yet with different intensity patterns.
Photonic structures encased by a permeable envelope give rise to iridescent blue color in the scales covering the male Hoplia coerulea beetle. This structure comprises a periodic porous multilayer. The color of these scales is known for changing from blue to green upon contact with water despite the presence of the envelope. This optical system has been referred to as a photonic cell due to the role of the envelope that mediates fluid exchanges with the surrounding environment. Following from previously studied liquid-induced changes in the color appearance of H. coerulea, we measured vapor-induced color changes in its appearance. This response to vapor exposure was marked by reflectance redshift and an increase in peak reflectance intensity. Different physico-chemical processes were investigated to explain the increase in reflectance intensity, a property not usually associated with vapor-induced optical signature changes. These simulations indicated the optical response arose from physisorption of a liquid film on the beetle scales followed by liquid penetration through the envelope and the filling of micropores within the body of the photonic structure.
The scales covering the elytra of the male Hoplia coerulea beetle contain fluorophores embedded within a porous photonic structure. The photonic structure controls both insect colour (reflected light) and fluorescence emission. Herein, the effects of water-induced changes on the fluorescence emission from the beetle were investigated. The fluorescence emission peak wavelength was observed to blue-shift on water immersion of the elytra whereas its reflectance peak wavelength was observed to red-shift. Time-resolved fluorescence measurements, together with optical simulations, confirmed that the radiative emission is controlled by a naturally engineered photonic bandgap while the elytra are in the dry state, whereas non-radiative relaxation pathways dominate the emission response of wet elytra.
Natural nanostructures rarely come with a single biological function to fulfil. Moreover, from a bio-inspiration perspective, it sounds attractive to develop multifunctional coatings, devices or sensors. Suppression of light reflection from body parts, such as the wings of insects, is useful for hiding from predators. The transparent parts of the wings of Cacostatia ossa (moth) inherit their antireflective property from non-close-packed nano-scale nipple arrays on both sides of the wings. Through modelling and optical simulations, we show that effective medium approaches, commonly used to characterize antireflection, slightly overestimate the reflectance with respect to detailed Rigorous Coupled Wave Analysis calculation. Coloration due to light interference in nanostructure, on the other hand, sometimes comes with an additional, unexpected and maybe non-biologically significant function: hygrochromism, i.e. change of color with humidity. The male Hoplia coerulea (beetle), for instance, exhibits iridescent blue-violet color which turns to emerald green when the elytron is put in contact with water. Impregnation experiments with various liquids revealed intriguing color change dynamics which could be related to the wetting properties of porous chitinous cuticle. Super-hydrophobicity is another function of biological significance, which helps, for instance, insects to keep dry in humid environments. Through morphological, optical and contact angle measurements, we show the existence of entangled levels of functionality on the wings of Cicada orni, namely a superhydrophobic stage at the upper part of the nipple array corrugated surface and an antireflective stage and the lower part.
The structural colour of male Hoplia coerulea beetles is notable for changing from blue to green upon contact with water. In fact, reversible changes in both colour and fluorescence are induced in this beetle by various liquids, although the mechanism has never been fully explained. Changes enacted by water are much faster than those by ethanol, in spite of ethanol’s more rapid spread across the elytral surface. Moreover, the beetle’s photonic structure is enclosed by a thin scale envelope preventing direct contact with the liquid. Here, we note the presence of sodium, potassium and calcium salts in the scale material that mediate the penetration of liquid through putative micropores. The result leads to the novel concept of a “photonic cell”: namely, a biocompatible photonic structure that is encased by a permeable envelope which mediates liquid-induced colour changes in that photonic structure. Engineered photonic cells dispersed in culture media could revolutionize the monitoring of cell-metabolism.
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